One day while talking about why it is that I seem to have such a hard time letting things go, a friend here told me;
“Tomorrow is uncertain. Today is uncertain.”
She went on to explain how her religious upbringing instilled within her the practice of letting go. It’s not that she is less affected, or more poised than I am, but rather that she is more practiced at letting go.
I think about this often in the context of my relationships here, and this experience as a whole. Despite my best efforts, I so often find myself trying to grasp things, to hold onto them and keep them.
The question isn’t, “should I hold onto this?” Rather, the question is, “can I?”
The answer I am trying over and over again to accept is, “No.”
I think a lot about my connections to the people in my life. Many days I still feel uncomfortable, anxious, seeking, and scrambling;
Are my connections strong? Can I be doing more? Do people know how important they are to me?
I try as often as I can to let go, to just accept those connections as they are. They didn’t get this way by being maintained or forced — they got this way through gentleness, openness, and vulnerability.
It feels like I am always trying to create opportunities, worrying about those connections instead of just being. That is such a huge source of anxiety for me — constantly seeking instead of finding, constantly feeling what isn’t there at the expense of what is.
I want to practice letting go and being present. If I keep this intention in my heart every day, I can practice opening myself up to all of the things that are there, instead of just the things I feel are missing. If I can stop resisting life. If I can drop the story lines.
That letting go often doesn’t feel as good as I imagine it will. Somehow the idea of release feels more exciting than the release itself. I think a big part of that is because I anticipate letting go — that I will be able to let go at that time, on that day, in that place — but when that day actually comes, I can’t do it.
No matter how diligently I try to keep the intention to practice letting go in my daily life, the desire to feel connected still aches within my chest. I seek and I reach out, and I so often forget that those connections will come as long as I am open to them, as long as I allow myself to see what is already there in each present moment, and not just what isn’t.
So much of my writing is full of metaphors. Water, stones, circles, cycles, orbits, strings, trees, and visions. Even the idea of letting go, of the open palm, is a metaphor for an emotional and entirely internal experience.
A feeble and futile attempt to quantify and clarify the human experience, to paint a picture of the inside of our hearts for others to see and therefore understand us. It’s all an attempt to explain something that was never meant to make sense in the first place. Cells given cognition by Lady Luck and Father Time, stardust with consciousness capable of contemplating itself.
Here we are pretending it all makes sense.
The world we as humans have created is so spectacularly odd. To think that any of this was intended strikes me as so incredibly arrogant, as if a mote of dust is the entire universe fabricated for our benefit.
We attempt to sift meaning out of the neutral chaos that is nature because our brains evolved to detect patterns because it was advantageous to us in some way. I suspect this is part of the reason that I see so many patterns when I look at my own life.
Maybe the only thing that keeps that pattern going is my belief that it exists. A prison of thought created to try and explain the indescribable, because being free and open to the truth that nothing is certain is too terrifying to bear. So I build comfort out of explanations willed into existence only by the belief that they are true — and they are as much as they aren’t.
A couple weeks ago I went to the local election for the Youth Council in my province. About ten minutes into being there my mind started to run along the course that has become so familiar to me during my time here — frustration, annoyance, disbelief, exasperation, and resistance.
“They should be doing this, not that. Why aren’t they doing this other thing? Oh, no, they’re doing that all wrong. What are these kids even doing here? How is this still happening?”
After letting this run its course for a while, fairly inured to the feeling at this point in my service, I remembered my intention to let go and allowed myself to look beneath the surface. I tried to feel into that initial frustration without judgement, smooth it out, and then just let it go and drop the story line that I was telling myself about it. I tried to tune myself into the present moment. I let myself slow down for a moment to ask, “What is happening here?”
“I see students who are doing something productive on a Saturday. I see adults who care about the youth in their community. I see the desire for change. I see effort and perseverance. I see people who recognize what the problems in their community are but often have no earthly idea of how to begin fixing them. I see youth daring, exposing themselves, trying new things, and making friends with other youth who believe that they can take an active part in their community, even if they are not yet sure what that means.”
When I allowed myself to let go, the totality of the experience became available to me. It’s so easy to focus on those initial feelings of frustration, anger, or sadness, but if we are able to not grasp onto that we are left with all of the parts of that experience that make it so rich, so whole, and so human.
Inexplicable. Stardust floating through space.